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‘Catfish’ for the business world

‘Catfish’ for the business world
‘Catfish’ for the business world
Used by permission from Bigstockphoto.com

The term ‘catfish’ has taken on a pop culture reference name that’s familiar to many these days. Most people know it from the MTV show of the same name that has nothing to do with seafood, and everything to do with people posing as others online, usually to find a sense of love and a connection without revealing their true identities to their intended targets, that is, until they are caught.

Back in 1976, when this entertainment writer was a 7-year-old, all I knew about the term catfish was that it represented a usually breaded and fried delight, or a song from the Four Tops that my mother didn’t want me to enjoy due to its suggestive lyrics.

Now that it is 2014, however, the word has morphed into a trickster type of process that not only occurs in interpersonal web-based relationships pertaining to love, but also partnerships in business. It really depends on the manner in which the person is “cat-fishing” others (and the reasons why) as to whether it falls in the realm of a sinister thing or a bold business move.

The right and wrong ways to ‘catfish’ in the business world for successful ventures

There are several ways that entrepreneur-minded folks are using catfish-like maneuvers to improve their company’s bottom line. For example, during one documentary that followed the tracks of several sole proprietors seeking millions of dollars from venture capitalists and angel investors to invest in their projects, one minority race man from India admitted that he hired a Caucasian American man solely to act as a spokesperson for his firm when presenting his pitch in the United States. It gave his potential investors the “warm fuzzies” to see a man that looked like them.

This type of posturing is nothing new, having been successfully used to combat racism for years, such as when publisher John H. Johnson posed as a janitor, pretending to check out a piece of real estate property for his boss in absentia in order to procure the building for his magazine. These days, that type of smart business move might mean hiring a back-office pro to create the types of tasks a company head needs to be done behind the scenes, honestly and ethically.

Another wise move that plenty of online wizards utilize these days surround the field of authorship. Perhaps there’s a man who knows that the green smoothie diet craze is all the rage, so he writes a book but adopts the persona of an elderly woman on his Amazon author page, experimenting with how much better his sales would become by writing under a pen name. He might even choose to use a stock photography image as his visual pseudonym. As long as he’s keeping an honest stance with his creations, he’s probably dancing near the line of cool corporate catfish creations.

Others have used temporary catfish personas in the business world and beyond in order to thwart criminal activities, like the FBI when pursuing Internet crimes, or to catch a bottom-feeding photographer attempting to shake others down for cash.

These can all be valuable and excusable reasons to “catfish” in the online world at large. It only really seems to cross the line when a person tries to build his or her business on fakery, such as a writer taking on a fake image and hiring others to create writing for her that she then passes off as her own. In those instances, when lies upon lies start pilling up, it’s time for revelation to occur – and perhaps the person doing the “catfish” attempts for the wrong reasons will find themselves hooked, baited and caught.